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October 8, 2015

TV Break-Ups: 10 Devastating TV Couple Splits

by Oliver Miller, posted Feb 12th 2010 5:00PM
kevin and winnie wonder yearsThere are break-ups and then there are Break-Ups. (And then there are break-ups.) We've all had a relationship end in our lives, and we've all seen them end on TV. And the serial nature of television shows demands that characters be constantly drifting into and out of relationships.

But still, some TV break-ups hit us harder than others. When we grow attached to certain characters, their fictional splits can hit us as hard as a divorce or a dumping in our own lives.

And so, we present a list of 10 television break-ups that truly devastated us, for one reason or another. These are the Sam and Dianes, the Buffy and Angels, the Kevin and Winnies ... We wanted them to stay together so badly. And yet, they failed.

1) Sam and Diane, 'Cheers'
Ex-baseball pitcher Sam Malone and writer/grad student Diane Chambers had a love/hate relationship for six years on the sitcom 'Cheers.' At the end of the sixth season, the two of them were engaged to get married, but then Diane's ex-fiancee showed up and offered her a book deal. She left, breaking off the marriage. Diane promised to return to Sam in a few months, but it was all a lie. In fact, Diane didn't return to the show for six long years. And even then, she only returned for the final episode of 'Cheers,' where she and Sam get engaged again, and then break up again. It's an absurd protracted double-gut-punch break-up the likes of which we have never seen. To be honest, we're still kind of reeling from the whole thing.

2. Angel and Buffy, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
What if your boyfriend was a vampire, and it was your sworn duty to defend the world from him? Even worse, say you started dating him, and then learned that he was suffering from a gypsy curse than would cause him to turn evil if he ever experienced a moment of perfect happiness? That's the situation that Buffy Summers faces with her boyfriend Angel. After the two of them sleep together, Angel experiences a moment of perfect happiness, and turns evil. Then Buffy kills him. Then Angel returns to life. And then they break up again. The whole situation was left unresolved when Angel received his own spin-off show, and departed the 'Buffy' universe forever. But all in all, the high drama and pain of the Buffy-Angel relationship makes 'Twilight' look like, well, child's-play.

3. Kirsten and Charlie, 'Party of Five'
The theme song to the show ended with the words "Everyone wants to be... closer to free," which seemed to embody the difficulty of lead character Charlie Salinger, who suffered from major commitment-itis. Did Charlie want to be free or tied-down in a relationship? He got engaged to babysitter Kirsten Bennett, then panicked at the last minute, repeatedly flipping a coin to decide if they should get hitched or not. Charlie left Kirsten at the altar, and raced through a series of relationships afterward - but he never really got over her, either. In the series finale (tellingly entitled "All's Well That Ends Well"), Charlie and Kirsten do get back together, and get married. But it never totally felt right, and seemed more like a last-minute attempt by the show to make amends for the original horrific break-up. As they say, the first cut is the deepest.

4. Andy and Angela (and Dwight), 'The Office'
Sometimes it's painful to see even a really bad relationship end. In 'The Office,' uptight accountant Angela Martin begins dating salesman Andy Bernard; even though it generally seems like she hates him in every way. Meanwhile, she's cheating on him with with rival salesman Dwight Schrute. Quite naturally, the whole thing explodes, with both men simultaneously dumping Angela. But most of the pain of the whole experience came from watching Andy, who was pouring so much love and devotion into a relationship that was so obviously wrong for him.

5. Carrie and Berger, 'Sex and the City'
There are pretty established procedures for how you're supposed to do a break-up. The best way is in person (preferably in a crowded restaurant, so that the person being dumped can't cry or freak out). After breaking up in person, the next most acceptable way is over the phone, followed by snail mail, e-mail, Facebook message, or, ugh, Twitter. But in the sixth season of 'Sex and the City,' boyfriend Jack Berger broke up with Carrie Bradshaw via Post-It Note -- surely the worst, and most demeaning method of all. (For the record, his Post-It said: "I'm sorry, I can't. Don't hate me.") What makes it even worse is that Berger was a novelist. Dude! At least write her a letter or a poem or something. Geez.

6. Angela and Jordan, 'My So-Called Life'
Sometimes, relationships aren't ended by bad decisions or hormones or cheating or lying. Sometimes, relationships are ended by cancellation. This was the case with the cult show 'My So-Called Life.' Despite receiving nearly unanimous praise from critics, the show was dropped by NBC after only a single season. And the worst part was, we never found out what happened with Angela and Jordan! In the show, Angela repeatedly rejects nice (nerdy) guy Brain Krakow for cool (dumb) guy Jordan Catalano. Then, Angela and Jordan break up after he sleeps with Angela's best friend. And then, in the final episode, Jordan -- who is nearly illiterate -- sits down and writes a letter as part of an effort to win Angela back. What happens next? We'll never know. Why? Because the show got freakin' canceled, that's why.

7. Kevin and Winnie, 'The Wonder Years'
For six years, Kevin Arnold was desperately in love with girl-next-door Winnie Cooper. The pair dated, then broke up. Then they fell in love again. But in the series finale, Kevin catches Winnie making out with an older lifeguard. Even as they break up for the last time, Winnie is still crying, while standing in the rain. "I don't want it to end," she says. The worst part: the entire series is narrated by an older version of Kevin himself. So older Kevin must have known the whole time that he and Winnie would never work out, but still told the story anyway. So sad.

8. Dave and Lisa, 'NewsRadio':
Most TV shows play an endless game of "will they or won't they" with their romantic leads. (See, for example, 'Cheers,' above.) But the sitcom 'NewsRadio' bucked this trend by having its two main characters start dating in the second episode ever. In the middle of the second season, Dave and Lisa broke up over a misunderstanding, and though the show continued for three more years, they never really reunited. It was a surprising end to a surprising relationship, although the sadness was somewhat redeemed by the comedy that followed. (For instance, Dave's break-up letter to Lisa being simultaneously faxed to every member of the office.)

9. Fry and Leela, 'Futurama'
For the entire run of 'Futurama,' hapless delivery boy Fry was in love with one-eyed pilot Turanga Leela. Unfortunately, Leela can't stand him. Throughout the sci-fi cartoon's five seasons, the writers kept coming up with ever more ingenious ways to humiliate Fry and deprive him of his one true love. In the show's most haunting episode, 'Time Keeps on Slipping,' Fry actually gets married to Leela -- then instantly has his marriage annulled through the magic of time travel. But because time has already skipped ahead, Fry doesn't even know how he managed to make Leela fall for him. At the end of the show, he learns the secret: he rearranged entire constellations in order to spell out the words "I LOVE YOU" in the sky, with... stars. But it's too late. Time has moved on, and Leela already doesn't love him (again).

10. Conan O'Brien and 'The Tonight Show'
There are all kinds of TV break-ups. Among them, the break-up of a performer with his show. O'Brien had a whirlwind seven-month romance with a creature called 'The Tonight Show.' But that romance came to an abrupt end when an ex-boyfriend (a Mr. Jay Leno) came back into the picture. And so, in the end, Conan lost his one true love. But we'll always have our (all-too-brief) memories of his whirlwind affair. Conan's final speech to his audience is a good reminder that television shows come and go, but that pure love lasts, well, forever.

Sound off: What TV break-up broke your heart?

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Cathy M

It is Kevin and Winnie that really broke my heart and stayed with me all these years (it's been over 20 years since I watched the last episode of The Wonder Years when it aired on TV). Theirs was such a sweet love story, full of innocence and the pain of growing up. Ironically enough, Kevin and Winnie actually reunite in the final episode, AFTER he catches her with the life guard! They make up on the way home (Winnie gets fired from her lifeguard job and runs into Kevin while trying to hitch a ride home) after getting stuck in a barn during a rainstorm. It is actually heavily implied in the barn scene (by the voiceover narration) that this is the night Kevin & Winnie sleep together for the first time. They promise each other that night that they'll be together forever. The last visual of them together is the following day at a fourth of July parade. They are together, holding hands, and blissfully happy. It is only in the final epilogue (via Danny Stern's voiceover as adult Kevin) that he reveals that he (Kevin) married someone else and had at least one son. Worst of all, it is also revealed that Kevin & Winnie stayed in touch via 8 years of letters, and that he met her at the airport upon her return from Paris with his wife and new son in tow! The writers' purpose in having K&W NOT end up together is pretty clear. A running theme throughout TWY is that life doesn't always turn out the way you plan, and this was in keeping with that theme - as was another cruel revelation in the epilogue - that Kevin's father died while still in his 40s. Viewers of course, invested 6 years in these characters, and particularly in K&W's love story. The writers and actors made us believe - and then they ripped the rug out from under us! I get why they did it, but all these years later, it is still a huge bummer. After all, if Kevin & Winnie didn't make it, what hope is there for the rest of us?

July 05 2014 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know this is so cliche of me to say, but it TOTALLY broke my heart when Ross and Rachel broke up! The way he was on his knees hugging her and the way she said, "No! You can't just kiss me and expect it to all be okay!" It was like she loved him so much but had to end it. Did you know both Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer literally started crying while filming that scene? It should be on the list!!

September 01 2010 at 3:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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